On Oct. 1, Student Organization of Latinos/Hispanics and Allies (SOL) and Office for Inclusive Excellence came together and hosted a Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration in The Quad.
Students and faculty gathered for Zumba, food, a salsa lesson, performances from the Dance Department and a live performance from a Pittsburgh-based Latin band, as well as many different craft tables.
The celebrations began Sept. 23 with a “Latinx Panel Discussion & Coffee House,” where the campus community could enjoy coffee from native Latin countries and listen to experiences shared by the Latinx and Hispanic faculty and peers of SRU.
“Latin Drag Bingo” was hosted on Oct. 5 in Eisenberg Classroom Building, where students played bingo with performances from local, Latin drag queens.
There is one final celebration coming Nov. 4 in the Smith Student Center (SCC) Ballroom. “Dia de los Muertos Showcase,” to celebrate Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday. There will be story telling, dance, music and culture that gives a chance for students to have fun and learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month.
Christine Pease-Hernandez, advisor of SOL, talks about the annual tradition. Due to COVID-19, last year was the first time in nearly a decade that they weren’t able to have a celebration.
“Every year it gets bigger and bigger. Day of the Dead is a celebration of our ancestors who have passed on,” Hernandez said. “It’s more of a Mexican tradition, but there are other countries that celebrate. SOL has made it into a showcase where they highlight different legends or different stories. They then choreograph a number to highlight the characters in those stories.”
Celebrating Day of the Dead at SRU is a collaborative effort, involving many different student organizations across campus. There’s students painting faces, dancing, backstage crew and people to set up.
The events throughout Hispanic Heritage Month go beyond educating the campus community. It gives a chance for students to express themselves and explore their connection to their culture.
Roger Solano, another advisor for SOL, explains the importance of giving students a safe space to explore their culture.
“Hispanic Heritage Month allows us to display that cultural connection. Hispanic and Latino students are the second largest minority on campus, but everybody here has that connection to Hispanic culture one way or another.”
Hernandez explains the struggle of being on a predominately white campus, where students may not feel comfortable to explore their connection and sometimes they may feel it is easier to stay hidden. Solano talks more about breaking down this barrier.
“Hispanic students have necessarily one physical trait that identifies them,” Solano said. “We come in all varieties of colors, in all varieties of shapes, so the connection that we have is cultural. Our objective is to help them feel safe and at home in Slippery Rock.”
Students are not only encouraged to educate themselves on other cultures, but to also explore their own cultures they may be tied to. Hernandez urges students to come to cultural events and allow themselves to be exposed to something new.
“I would encourage students to get out of their comfort zone and to really embrace them. As students you don’t get these opportunities so close in proximity, so you’re really losing out as students when you don’t take advantage of these wonderful opportunities.”